Newell rebounds from collision, illness to finish 8th



Olympian Andy Newell collided with another racer in his semifinal heat of the season-opening World Cup cross-country sprint Saturday in Dusseldorf, Germany, but rebounded to finish eighth to lead the U.S. team in rainy, soft-snow conditions.
     Newell was fourth-fastest in qualifying.
     "Not a bad start for the season. I have no complaints," Newell said. "The snow wasn't bad, considering it was raining last night and off and on during the day; the snow stayed surprisingly quick and didn't break down too much."
     For Newell, who produced the first U.S. podium in 23 years last season in China, it was his third consecutive top-10 finish. Three Norwegians filled the podium, with Eldar Ronning on top, Oystein Petterson in second and Tor Arne Hetland in third.

DUSSELDORF, Germany Olympian Andy Newell collided with another racer in his semifinal heat of the season-opening World Cup cross-country sprint Saturday in Dusseldorf, Germany, but rebounded to finish eighth to lead the U.S. team in rainy, soft-snow conditions.
     He was fourth-fastest in qualifying.
     "Not a bad start for the season. I have no complaints," Newell said. "The snow wasn't bad, considering it was raining last night and off and on during the day; the snow stayed surprisingly quick and didn't break down too much."
     For Newell, who produced the first U.S. podium in 23 years last season in China, it was his third consecutive top-10 finish; he was fourth in the qualifying round to reach finals. The 800-meter course of machine-made snow from a suburban indoor ski dome ran along the Rhine River and had a couple of small ripples to break up the flat terrain.
     Three Norwegians filled the podium, with Eldar Ronning on top, Oystein Petterson in second and Tor Arne Hetland in third.
     Newell collided with Norwegian Petter Northug on the first lap of their semifinal heat, then led the B final [to determine final rankings 7-12] until being outlunged at the finish by Swiss skier Christoph Eigenmann. Coincidentally, Eigenmann edged Newell for second place last March in the first World Cup staged in China.
     “It was tight and Northug came up and tried to pass me on a small hill, tried to cut over my skis – just kinda Supermanned it over my skis — but we hit and went into the fence. I don't really have a problem with that because I've done it myself," Newell said. "The qualifying round went well. I didn't feel great about 10 minutes after the finish of the quarterfinal and was throwing up, and that got me a little dehydrated, and I started cramping … but I still can't complain. It turned out OK.”
     Expanding the semifinal and final heats to six skiers created tight conditions with precious little wiggle room for skiers. 
   
"There was a lot of contact out there and Andy was on the losing end in the semifinal," said sprint coach Chris Grover. "But then he came back in the B final, controlled it the whole way and just got outlunged by Eigenmann. "What Andy did, though, considering how he felt, was pretty heroic in some ways. What did the Red Sox call it two years ago [when they won the World Series] — ‘Cowboy up' to get tough. That was Andy today.”
     Grover mentioned that circumstances aside, Newell’s result would have been even better.
     “Newell nearly bonked at one point and wasn't firing on all cylinders, but he pulled it together and was just so tough,” Grover said. “He ran into some bad luck in the semifinal heat when they got tangled up, but it was an outstanding performance. It was so tight. They've always had four in the semis and finals, and today it was six in pretty tight conditions.”
    
In a new sprint format designed by the International Ski Federation, the field is cut to 30 after the qualifying round; the fields race six five-skier heats with the top two advancing, so there are 12 in the two semifinal heats with the top three in each heat making for a six-athlete A final (medal round) and a six-skier B final (positions 7-12).
     Defending World Cup champion Marit Bjoergen of Norway won the women’s race. No U.S. women competed.
     The weekend marks the first time the U.S. Ski Team has entered the opening sprints in Dusseldorf, which started in October 2002. Races conclude Sunday with two-skier team sprints. U.S. racers Chris Cook and Torin Koos failed to qualify.
     The U.S. men, who trained last week in Sweden, head to Ramsau, Austria, and the Dachstein glacier for a mini-camp and will be joined by World Cup coach Justin Wadsworth and two-time Olympian Andrew Johnson before returning to Sweden. The next World Cup stop is Nov. 18-19 in Gallivare, Sweden, with the next sprint the following weekend, Nov. 25-26, in Kuusamo, Finland.



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